16 Comments

DISCARDING THE UNUSED


Once you decide that you are not going to make all of the recipes you have been collecting for 71 years, it is time to sort through the mess. As I have confessed in the past, I surprised my husband on our honeymoon with the knowledge that I did not cook. My soul accomplishment was holding a hot dog over the flame of a gas stove till it became crispy and blackened. Flash forward through trial and error and cooking classes, and I became what has been euphemistically called a good home cook.

I have an abnormal collection of cookbooks, most of which have one or two pages turned down to remind me of something I once made which might be repeated at a later date. I have my mother’s cookbooks, my grandmother’s recipe books, much of which is written in her own hand which I can no longer see. There are files containing recipes from friends and relatives and clippings from now faded newspapers. Tucked in amongst these are scribbled notes in undecipherable shorthand for recipes of my own making.

I have threatened for some time to address this unruly mess. My Depression era upbringing has instilled in me a faint hope that I may need something once again and it will be gone.

The supermarket has been my enemy in many ways. While roaming through the aisles I create amazing future meals, and toss in one or two or three items which then reside my my pantry until I wonder what on earth I bought that for? The produce department is better because vegetables do not have a shelf life.

The freezer is a wonderful thing too. Lately I have wondered why I have bags of frozen fruit, some of which has been languishing for more than 2-3 years. The nectarine tree has been gone for two years at least, and an apple tree left soon after. Nestled alongside in one freezer (we have two) were bits and pieces of left-over somethings which I thought might make a nice lunch someday. Since it was waste collection day, I hauled it outside to the pick-up bins and forgave myself for being so wasteful. The tins in the pantry I can give to those who can use them, more than thawed out soggy old fruit.

I became accustomed to entertaining large groups of people through the years, and needed quite a few containers to freeze things ahead of time. Though we still entertain a lot, I have found that eight is all I can comfortably handle by myself. One of these days I will begin sorting through pans and trays etc. for the local thrift shop. I have not yet mastered the art of cooking for two and not have it last for over two days. Soup is an exception of course, one always adds to it whether you need it or not.

Having accomplished my freezer clean-out , I tackled the “meat dish” recipe folders. It was a fine way to spend a little time because obviously all recipes had to be read and evaluated. Many pages had become separated from their partners, making them literally useless, so they went in the “out” pile along with most of the newspaper clippings. The “maybe” pile contained things like spinach-cheese tamales, because of some I had eaten at a Seattle restaurant. The “Save” pile grew as I went through them, wondering why I had not made this or that at least once.

You can get a recipe for anything from the internet, including copy-cat ones from a favorite restaurant, and many young people do just that. On the other hand, young women from the Boomer era still call for recipes they remember from their past, which makes it important to keep the “Save” pile. During the course of a lifetime we all create delicious stand-by recipes which are kept in our mental vaults. After all, we know what tastes good.

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16 comments on “DISCARDING THE UNUSED

  1. This sure rings a bell, Kayti.

    Cooking books are stacked high on our kitchen bench and are used to hide kitchen paraphernalia when seated in the lounge area. That’s about all the cookbooks do now-a-days. When I met H, the voluminous cut-out recipes that Helvi had saved up during her student days, all carefully bound in a folder, clinched it for me. They are still around somewhere. But as it turned out, cooking became mainly my domain. She does excel in making great soups and risotto stock.

    The fridge cleaning is always attacked by Helvi. She starts off by putting a panful of hot water in the freezer compartment. She recently found a bottle of stale cod-liver oil dating back to our farm days, with other odds and ends. Sometimes it includes mysterious items, neither food or medicals. She tests it by tapping on it and chucks it if it doesn’t reverberate.

    I recently found an old Indian recipe book by Julie Sahni, given to us in exchange for a painting. It was signed by Elizabeth, but who is Elizabeth?

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  2. We are more alike than unalike for sure. The sight of recipes encourages me to cook these days as our appetites are smaller and some days nothing appeals. Who ARE all these Elizabeths who found their way into our kitchens?
    All these small bottles and jars are a mystery, and what did we use them for? I always say I will clear out and keep out, but old habits die hard.

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  3. I taught myself to cook over the years too. Once I had kids, I knew I had no other choice. And like you, I’ve accumulated many cookbooks, but it seems many of my new recipes come from the internet now. At first I’d print them out, but now I just pull them up on my iPad. I just have to try not to splash on it!

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  4. Oh boy, do I admire you for making the decision to get rid of “some” of your recipes and cook books. That’s why you gave me that cookbook last month when we went to lunch!

    And the left overs in the fridge…throw them out! When we went down to my mom’s house in Goodyear to clean out the house, we found at least 30 tiny baggies of morsels of pasta, cookies, chicken, snacks, and other undecipherable “things.” Oh brother.

    I need to go through my library of books and begin culling those that I have read and have no desire to keep from those that the kids will have to sort through when I have left this earth.

    I do understand why you want to keep some of your recipes though…you’ll throw them out only to find that you need them the next weekend.

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    • No, I wasn’t tossing the cookbook; I had just bought one for myself so I got another for you! Tyler likes Ina Garten so I bought one of hers at the same time. I told you I’m a bit odd. Your mother and I always lived on the same page. Dick came to stay with us while we were in New Mexico and was totally puzzled by all those “little containers in the fridge”. What did I DO with them? I mix them all together dear. That’s what we got for living through the Depression. It just shows that like people’s bedrooms, the refrigerator is private.

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  5. I did the great recipe clean-out about a year ago. I’d discovered a little recipe box of Mom’s that I’d kept had some recipes still in it. So, of course I had to go through those — and found several of the go-tos that were part of our 1950s and 1960s life — especially the ones that showed up at bridge club.

    There are a couple I want to make again, just to taste that sweet nostalgia. One is for a spongecake-like confection that’s baked, cut into bars, dipped in a frosting, and then rolled in ground salted peanuts. The combination of sweet and salty is wonderful, and I’ve never seen them anywhere else.

    A huge box of cookbooks went off to Half-Price books, and most of the clipped-from-the-newspaper recipes just got tossed. Most are meant to serve at least four, and it’s not worth the experimenting for one. Besides — who needs all those recipes that call for a can of cream-of-whatever soup? There’s exactly one recipe for a chicken casserole I still make that requires that, but otherwise? Those dishes are off somewhere with the jello salads, comparing notes about the good old days.

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    • I think I know that chicken casserole dish, also one called Chicken Divan from the same era. Not bad at all. The problem with making old childhood recipes is that you can’t re-create the nostalgia. It has something to do with the time period and the other people involved while enjoying it. It’s a cry for a simpler time when someone else was cooking it. Also strange that sometimes the missing memory involves something sweet like a cake or cookie. I’m baking cookies today for a sick friend when she probably would be better off with a meatloaf!

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  6. Hey! I fixed Chicken Divan about six months ago. I substituted all that mayo with yogurt. And talk about meatloaf! I haven’t thought about meatloaf until I read your words in your comment, Kayti! Oh, I love a meatloaf sandwich…

    You both have inspired me to clean out my cookbooks and recipes. Today, I made curry chicken salad and obtained the recipe from Epicurious. Delish!

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    • I saved a few choice ones from your mother which I make frequently, but do you remember her ever making baklava? Her name is on the scrap of paper. I made it once but not her recipe. After rolling filo dough till I had to lie down and rest, Chris and Jack Z. came over and helped themselves to half of it. Boys! I decided I didn’t like it anyway. I’m making meatloaf today.

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  7. Peggy has all her old recipe books, Kate, and she is always threatening to clean them out. But they live on. 🙂 I do much of the cooking, and I have to confess, it is almost all Internet. I still have my Mother’s old cookbook from the 50s, though. And every once in a while, I feel temped to go back and cook one of the meals I loved from my childhood. –Curt

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    • I haven’t discarded any cookbooks and I confess I buy another now and then, sometimes just for the text. People who love food tend to write such glowing words about it. It’s like “funeral food”, people drag out all the oldies because it’s comforting. I have occasionally made one of my mother’s recipes, but somehow it isn’t the same. Sort of like ‘pretending’. In reading through all those recipes I just threw out, I was careful to save all that had names of friends or relatives. I may never make them again, but at least I gave them a kind thought.

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      • I like the ‘kind thought,’ Katy. I make similar decisions. They are old friends and shouldn’t be abandoned. I buy lots of new backpacking gear because it is lighter, but I have some ‘old friends’ that I still use and would never replace. 🙂 –Curt

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  8. I also have lots of cookery books, and a folder full of cut outs and hand written recipes. They are kind of arranged into smaller folders, meat, veg, puds etc. But the order doesn’t last long. You have reminded me that I need to get sorting again!

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  9. i was a dubious convert, but the internet gradually won me over and it is now my only cookbook, except for an old Betty Crocker that has a back cover imprinted with the rings of an electric burner. In addition I have three photograph-album style cookbooks where I keep my precious recipes from over the years underneath the sticky plastic page covers.. When I try a new online recipe, my husband and I evaluate it to see if it’s good enough to make a hard copy and enshrine it in the favorites books. It sounds like you are a marvelous, competent cook. I admire your obvious flare for entertaining. Dinners for eight send me into a tizzy.

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